Tag Archives: Anchoring

Winter’s Coming…

Temperature at Bradenton Beach, FL, in low 50F this morning. Really a shock climbing out of the sleeping bag at 6:30. Dug out the thermals and fleece-lined booties before cranking up the stove for my morning mug of espresso. Don’t think low 50s is cold? Just a couple of weeks ago we were dealing with heat index figures of 108F!

Just before 8 last night I stood up in the hatchway to secure the shade tarp into its “rain” configuration which, while acting as a dodger, also serves like a spoiler directing the wind up and over the Bimini top. JUST as I was doing this the wind did a 180 and swung around into the NNE and went from nearly dead calm to mid to upper teens in wind speed in a matter of seconds. Shortly after that the temperature began to drop and a stiff chop developed bouncing my little craft uncomfortably. So uncomfortably that I couldn’t fall asleep for several hours.

Sometime in the middle of the night I got up to do old man stuff and there, less than 200 feet away and nestled into the mangroves was this derelict. And I mean mangrove branches are touching the hull! There are several like this up in the big anchorage by the pier. People come in with boats they no longer want or can’t afford, drop a hook and abandon them. It’s a big problem. THIS ONE has been up there for over a year and a half!

In the light of morning you can see that the lower ends of the two anchor lines hanging from the bow are BOTH about 4 feet ABOVE the waterline which leads me to believe that they had been deliberately cut in the night.

It’s a good thing the boat didn’t hit me. If it had I’d have been forced to track down whomever cut the lines and kill them!!!

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Anchor Anxiety

People who live on land cannot know the anxiety felt by someone who lives their lives on a small boat that’s constantly at anchor when they read a weather forecast like this: ”

A chance of Showers and Thunderstorms early in the Morning, then Showers with a chance of Thunderstorms in the late morning and afternoon. Windy. Some Thunderstorms may be severe. Highs in the mid 80s. Temperature falling into the mid 70s in the afternoon. South Winds 15 to 25 Mph, becoming southwest in the afternoon. Gusts up to 45 Mph. Chance of rain near 100%.” Forty five mph winds are a Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale. . .A “Fresh Gale.” Tropical storm winds are anything over 39 mph.

Sitting in your solid house you wonder why that causes such anxiety? Well, consider this: When you live “On the hook,” your life and everything you own is literally hanging on the end of a hunk of metal dug into the sea bed with a piece of rope connecting it to your boat.

Last week I ordered a wind speed device; the Dwyer Wind Meter.

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I owned one way back in ’92 when I was on my 9-month, single-handed trip from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back. It’s the soul of simplicity. The only moving part is a small foam ball. It measures wind speed the same way a pitot tube does.Face directly into the wind with two small holes at the base of the gauge facing the wind and the little ball in the tube rises and you read the wind speed there. There were a lot of other wind speed jobbers on offer but they all have a few problems as far as I’m concerned. One, they need batteries to function. They all have LCD screens which are often hard to read in bright sunlight. The worst feature of all of them is they have little fans that the wind turns (cancer machines, maybe?). Anything that whirls around on an axle is prime fodder for a break down.

The reason I bought it was to see what the wind speed actually is where I am located. The online service uses recordings from the Sarasota Airport which is 10 miles away.

I tracked the order and it said it had arrived at Bradenton, but not at the address yet. My mail drop doesn’t open until 10a.m. so I waited until 10 to leave the boat hoping it would have been delivered by the time I got there. It was windy, around 15 to 20 mph with whitecaps everywhere. Of course I didn’t NEED it, but I WANTED IT!!!

Getting to shore wasn’t a problem. Unfastened the painter and gave the dinghy a shove and the wind blew me right to the dock tout suite.Only had to paddle a few strokes to be in a position to tie off.

Since chances are good that I’ll be boat-bound tomorrow, possibly Saturday, too, I stopped in at Dollar Tree to stock up on junk food.

Back at the dinghy dock I hung around for close to an hour hoping one of the boats that had an outboard would be heading to their boat and give me a tow, but no such luck. According to the new wind gauge it’s blowing mid teens to 20 mph. With my COPD trying to paddle against that breeze would put a severe strain on lungs and heart. But I wanted to got back to my mother ship.

Generally I don’t go ashore when the conditions are like this but I’d thought about using the following procedure, though.

I handed myself down the length of the next two dock south of the dinghy dock to where I was nearly parallel with the Venture. Now it was a matter of paddling ACROSS the wind, not into it as you can see from illustration. The only thing wrong with the illustration is that the heads on arrows for the wind direction should be 180 degrees in the other direction fro what’s shown.

wind

It’s time to cook supper now, and of course the wind has dropped to nearly nothing.

Then, on Friday, this comes through on the internet….”Tornado watch in effect until 4 p.m. as strong cold front approaches. Hail possible and gusts in excess of 45 mph.”

Uncomfortably bouncy here at the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage this morning. It started getting lumpy around 4 a.m. and I had to get up at 4:30 to see how bad it was. It wasn’t nice.

Though the forecast calls for near 100% chance of rain today it’s bright and sunny. Radar shows heavy bands of rain at the edges of its range heading this way but wont get to us for at least another couple of hours. There’s no telling, yet, how wide the band is, though.

The wind is puffing away. The reports from Sarasota Airport, 10 away, say the wind is blowing at 18 mph with gusts of 29.9 mph. My Dwyer gauge shows 15 mph with a couple of gusts in the mid 20s.

So far it’s no worse than other nastily windy days. I have three anchors over the side and check landmarks on shore from time to time and not dragging an inch.

Then: The worst is over. Though it’s still quite breezy, gusting into the mid 20 mph range, the sun came back out around 5 p.m.

I took down my tarp and lowered the Bimini top around 11 a.m. to reduce “sail area” of the boat due to the high winds as the cold front approached the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage.

It started raining heavily around 1 p.m. and the temperature dropped noticeably. I was hunkered down, snug as the proverbial bug in a rug while the heavy swells tossed stuff around in the cockpit and cabin.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, the wind edged around from southeast where it came across the 12+ mile fetch across Sarasota Bay to the southwest where it was coming across Anna Maria Island from the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with only a mile and a half of open water between the land and the anchorage the bouncing was almost completely reduced. Now the wind is in the northwest quadrant and there’s just a slight movement of the boat. Put the Bimini back up and got the tarp back in place. All’s right with the world.

Saturday morning and it’s bright sunshine, crisply chilly for a mid-April Bradenton Beach, Florida day. Wind’s still gusting up into the mid 20 mph range but coming from the northwest the wave action is minimal. With food and water on board and the battery bank charging well from the solar panels there’s no urgent need to go ashore today. Tomorrow winds are predicted to be less than half of what they are today and the temperature will be a bit warmer. A good Easter Sunday for those of you who believe in that stuff.

 

 

 

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A Mess of Metal

When I was returning to the boat at Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage after doing some grocery shopping Friday I noticed that the ½” line that leads to 40’ of ¼-inch chain that’s fastened to my 22-lb Manson Boss anchor was hanging oddly in the water. When I pulled on it I found, to my horror, that it was no longer attached to the chain. Somehow the shackle had become unhitched despite having the pin secured with a heavy plastic wire tie.

It was late in the day so I couldn’t go searching for the lost anchor and chain. The ⅜” line was still pulling well on the 30 feet of chain that links it to the 13-lb Danforth so I figured it was holding me well. I attached the bitter end of the ½” line to the 25-lb Danforth that was on deck and tossed it over the side as an extra precaution.

Saturday morning broke bright and nearly windless and the tide was almost dead low. The water was crystal clear and the bottom only about four feet below me. I hopped into the dinghy and went searching.

The last time I’d seen the anchors, a couple of months ago, they seemed to be fairly close together. I figured the best bet would be to run down the ⅜” line and search out from that point. I was surprised to find both anchors together and amidst a big ball of chain. I was JUST able to hook the mess with my boat hook but I couldn’t raise it to the surface in my tipy little cockleshell, and since the tide was rising I abandoned the effort for the moment. With light winds in the forecast and the Manson Boss seemingly well dug in I felt fairly confident nothing disastrous would happen. Realistically I was fastened to 35-lbs of anchors and 45-lbs worth of chain. In effect an 80-lb anchor.

My guess is that over the past couple of months with tidal currents pushing the mother ship back and forth  four times a day coupled with the rough, blustery winds we’ve been having out of the southeast and northeast the lines got pulled this way and that until everything got all messed up.

It occured to me as I was having supper that I could probably lift the metal mess from the bow of the mother ship, a more stable platform than the dinghy.

First thing Sunday morning, after my mug of espresso, of course, I hauled the iron mess up out of the water. It took several tries to break it free of the sandy bottom and I had to rest several times and suck on my inhaler. Fifty years of smoking licit and illicit substances was NOT a good idea. You can see from the photo what I was facing. I wasn’t able to get it out further than this, though.

I untangled a lot of it, but not all. I’m going to need the assistance of my friend, Todd to get it all done. His dinghy is much more stable than mine and we can haul it out. Plus, he’s much younger and stronger than I am. Since it is essentially one solid mass of metal right now I got it positioned so the Manson Boss is set in the sand and I’m good for the moment. We’ll go at it tomorrow. Sunday isn’t good because every jerk that owns a boat in Manatee and Sarasota Counties is out on the water on this beautiful day and the wakes would make the work nearly impossible. But it’s coming along.

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When you have more boat than water…

The water here at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage is very shallow. Lots of boats come in at high tide and drop their hooks. For every high tide there’s a low tide and this is what happens.

Fortunately for ME I have a retractable keel and when it’s up (it always is, btw) I only draw about a foot of water. At low tide I’m sitting in about 3 feet of the wet.

low tide

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Getting Ready For Stormy Weather

So far this year’s hurricane season has been tranquil here in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions are ripe, though. Warm water is what fuels and intensifies tropical storms and hurricanes. Today in nearby Tampa Bay the water temperature is 85°F. Just slightly cooler than the air temperature. And we’re just entering into the worst month of the year for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called.

Current tropical weather forecasts say that there’s a tropical “depression” forming around the Turks and Caicos islands and it’s expected to cross over southern Florida in the next day or two and enter into the Gulf. Of course as it heads north in the Gulf it will pass the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage where I’m located. It’s possible that the “depression” could easily turn into a tropical “storm” bringing lots of gusty winds along with it. If the steering currents change it could possibly come closer to where I’m located and really be a problem. ¿Quien sabes?

Right now the predictions are for winds in the mid to upper 20s starting later today (Sunday, 2 Sept.) and continue like that for the next several days. The prognosticators are prognosticating winds out of the east which, in some ways, is good. The worst direction is from a southerly direction as the fetch across the open waters of Sarasota Bay causes large waves here in the anchorage. They may only be three feet or so, but the period between crests is less than two seconds. It’s like BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…Well, you get the idea. REALLY uncomfortable on a 22 foot sailboat. But the fetch from the east is only a bit over a mile as opposed to 15 miles from the south so the waves aren’t as much of a problem.

The bad part is I’m very close to shore where I’m anchored. There are docks only about 50 yards astern. I’ve dragged anchor here three times. The last time I got an emergency anchor overboard and it caught and stopped me from being run up on the rocks of the Bridge Street Pier 60 feet away. Scary stuff.

After that incident I bought a larger anchor from a friend and also a Manson Boss anchor that got the highest ratings possible. I also bought 70 feet of 1/4″ chain. Forty five feet of it I fastened to the Boss and the other 25 feet to the 25 pound Danforth. I rode out the winter without budging an inch.

I went for a bit of a cruise in July and since I’ve been back I’ve only been riding to the Boss, and doing fine. Went through a rough patch in the middle of last week with gusts under a thunder storm approaching 50 mph! With the depression coming I thought it best to set out a second anchor.

I don’t have the big Danforth. I lent it to a neighbor who was moving his boat but lost his anchor when it got hung up on something on the bottom and couldn’t budge it. So, I got out the 25 feet of chain I had stowed in the lazarette and shackled it to the smaller, 13 pound Danforth that I used most of last year, but the one that had dragged on me previously. I only had 10 feet of light chain on it.

Anyway, I rowed the anchor away from the boat and set it at about a 60° angle from the Boss. It’s a precaution. I’m also ready to go get six gallons of gas at the nearby marina as soon as I sign off on this. I need it to run the generator so I can have computer capability. And if the depression turns into a storm or, heaven forbid, a hurricane, I can always haul anchor and run across the Intracoastal Waterway and up into the mangroves where I rode out Hurricane Irma last year.

I don’t think it’s going to be real bad, but you never know.

boss anchor

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Weathering the Winter at Anchor

When I knew I had to repatriate to the U.S. from Panama because of my COPD and the fact that Medicare doesn’t pay when you step outside the country I knew there was only one way I could survive on the income I have, and that would be to either buy and live on a small boat or buy a van and live “down by the river.”

I am completely dependent on SS and it nets out at a little over $1,100 after paying the Part B Medicare. Now THAT was one of the smart things I did when I moved to Panama. I kept paying that Part B. While I fully believed I’d die down there and never return to the States, ya never know!

Anyway, since I spent most of my working life either running or fixing up boats that’s what I decided I should get. My friend, Stef, with whom I’d worked for more than 20 years and I started a search and sent emails back and forth about possible boats. He wanted to put me in a 30 footer which, in many ways, would be great except for one thing. I wasn’t going to be sitting idle in a marina somewhere. Don’t have the money for that. Dock rentals these days come close to what it costs to rent an apartment for crying out loud.

No, I decided it would be kinda cool to go take a cruise in waters I was mostly unfamiliar with and venture into waters I hadn’t been on in decades. In my early days living in Louisiana I worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee production field in Breton Sound. If you look on a map there’s a long chain of barrier islands from the panhandle of Florida all the way westwards into Mississippi and then southwards in Louisiana. Breton Island is the last in the chain. We actually lived on the island. Seven days on and seven off. The crew boats, there were four of us, would take the hand out to their facilities and then from well to well for them service. Back then the Island was roughly a half mile long and perhaps a quarter mile wide at it’s widest. Now, though, with all the hurricanes that have swept up through the Gulf since 1978 there’s practically nothing left of the island. A couple of hundred yards at best. I thought it would be kind of neat to cruise on over, take a look and take some photos.

As I mentioned in a previous post I only made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of Florida when it all came to a crashing end. It was the 5th of July at 2 a.m. when I called a “Mayday” on my handheld radio. I could barely breath and it was nearly impossible for me to even sit up. I actually thought I was dying and was telling myself, “It’s all right to let go.”

Surprisingly the Coast Guard station in Mobile, Alabama, over 200 miles away, picked up my 6 watt call of distress and dispatched a Sea Tow boat from Panacea to evacuate me 16 miles out in the Gulf. We were met by an ambulance at the dock in Panacea and I spent the next 16 days in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Health South. I had a complete renal shut down caused by severe dehydration. On the positive side, I guess, I learned that I had a 2cm bladder stone and a 1cm kidney stone. I’ve had kidney stones and this is a pretty good sized one, .4-inch. THAT’S going to be fun when it decides to move.

Obviously Breton Island was out. Now what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Fort Lauderdale, a place I’ve lived in off and on for 35 years was out. Too big now. I remember when the tallest building in Lauderdale was FOUR STORIES TALL. The old Burdine’s downtown where the county offices are now. It’s also too expensive there. The price of a slip in a marina, if they’d even let me stay in a marina with my boat, would be almost as expensive as an apartment. The Keys were out, too for many of the same reasons. I decided I should try wintering it out at Bradenton Beach, a little south of Tampa Bay.

I’d stopped in there on my way north to wait for some papers for the boat insurance. There’s a large anchorage with fair weather protection from the north and northwest but wide open to south and southeast. There are some other nice, smaller anchorages within less than an hour run (I do 5 mph on a good day). There’s a nice dinghy dock available and a free “trolley” runs the length of Anna Maria Island from 6 a.m until 10 p.m. It passes by a Walgreens and a CVS pharmacy, Publix supermarket, an Ace and True Value hardware stores, a Dollar Tree store and a ton of restaurants. Then, if I need something more there’s a bus every hour that goes over to what I call “The Dark Side” i.e. the mainland. There are two, the Cortez #6 and the Manatee #3. I generally take the Cortez which will take me to Wally World, Home Depot or Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory, West Marine and the YMCA (now simply the Y). I joined the Y to be able to use their fully-equipped health spa and to be able to take a hot shower a few times a week. There are no hot showers on a 22-foot sailboat.

When spring time comes I think I’m going to head south. I had been thinking about going back across the state and north to the Saint Johns River but now I think I’ll stick around this side of the peninsula. I’ve never been to the Saint Johns though I’ve passed its mouth in the many trips I’ve made up and down the Atlantic ICW over the years. There are a lot of cool places over here that I passed by on my way north last spring on my way to Louisiana that I should check out more closely. And then go on down into the 10,000 Islands section of the state and the Everglades National Park. All in all it’s a couple of hundred miles but I can get back to Bradenton Beach in a week, week and a half if I push it and spend another winter here. We’ll see.

 

 

 

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